NASA has announced that Mars rover Curiosity will take its third scoop of Martian soil sometime today. While this may be the third scoop for the rover, it's the first one that will be placed into its on-board equipment for analysis.
Last week, Curiosity took its first scoop from the "Rocknest" site, where it has been for over a week. It then began to shake the soil to scrub the internal surfaces of its sample-processing chamber of any residual particles from Earth. The sampling process was interrupted briefly by the spotting of a small, bright object that researchers at the time assessed as a piece of plastic debris from the Martian lander that was jostled loose during landing.
Over the weekend, Curiosity took a second scoop and repeated the shaking process. However, the second scoop also found more bright material, some of which is embedded in the Martian soil. The new assessment holds that the particles are native to Mars, and the Curiosity team will take a third scoop for testing.
The plan for this third scoop is to place a portion of the sample into Curiosity's observation tray, and another portion into its chemistry and mineralogy (CheMin) instrument to determine its mineral composition composition. In the near future, a fourth scoop will be placed into the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument to determine its chemical composition. Meanwhile, Curiosity's other instruments will be more closely investigating the bright particles.
(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)